When you have an organization with 11 faculties with 24 departments, 8500 employees, 35000 students, 137 IT-systems and a very long history of academic independence, what do you do when they ask you to make them simple?
Service design agency Palmu faced this assignment and shared their story of a service design project with the University of Helsinki over a cup of coffee at Service Design Breakfast.
It was great to hear that the University of Helsinki acknowledges the obstacles of it’s highly complex organization and sees a need to transform the fragmented landscape of its services into a holistic view. But anyone familiar with the university world knows that the task is vast, to say the least.
Palmu started from within. Their aim was not so much to design the services for the organization but to help service professionals in University of Helsinki to adapt their service design model. This is without doubt the most efficient way to conduct such an enormous change, but probably also the most challenging one.
The world of academia is known for its ability to create new pieces of information and new metrics and emphasize the importance of specialization and training, whereas design thinking is all about holistic approach, simplicity, co-creation, learning by doing and sharing real-time information.
As Heikki Savonen, service designer at Palmu, noted, design thinking means changing individuals. Setting their initial focus on services for researchers needed during the research projects, Palmu team had already conducted several workshops and managed to infect over 100 university employees with design thinking mentality. But I couldn’t help wondering how do you involve the rest of them, the remaining 8400 employees? Even broadly conducted processes don’t meet the needs of change communication.
University and Palmu used a blog as their primary communication method. As Head of Development at Administrative Services Kari Huittinen explained to me after the presentation, they used a variety of other communication pathways, too, such as employee magazine, news at intranet, bulletins via e-mail and presentations of the project in several events. But the gospel of co-creation competed with many other issues an organization that big would have to communicate. It certainly didn’t reach the level of communication: the blog had only a few comments, most of the – positive and encouraging –feedback coming via email straight to the members of the project team.
It became clear to the participants of this project already at an early stage that changing the course of such a large cruise ship takes times and patience. The job will not be done overnight, probably not even in a year. However, the seed of change has been cultivated. Maybe a well-thought communication strategy is the fertilizer the simplification project needs to grow into its full bloom?
The slides and video of this Service Design Breakfast are here.
Written by Ida Rainio, content designer and first-year SID student.